Codependency Love Class: 6 Ways that Your People Pleasing Kills Relationships
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure about you.” ~Marianne Williamson.
Let’s talk about the disease to please and how it may be affecting your love life and other relationships.
My family of origin, as they say in the recovery movement, was filled with anger. One of the traits that I developed in childhood in part to deal with the level of rage and rage-aholics was the people pleaser’s disease.
On the surface, wanting to please other people and be like a nice person seems like a good thing. It’s not. People pleasing is unhealthy – and a selfish and manipulative fear response at it’s core. It also creates an intimacy barrier. Obviously, this can’t work if you want healthy relationships, right?
Let’s talk about 6 ways that people pleasing is killing your relationship.
At home I was raised to be the perfect people pleasing queen; a good girl, overachiever and an all around nice person. In school I felt as though I had to uphold my race by presenting a different version of African Americans.
I was dying inside and wasn’t even aware of it.
“Good girls” are taught that no matter what kind of anguish we are going through we show perfection to the outside world. This results in women who are stressed and depressed but well dressed.
I was never taught to address my own needs or to be authentic. Instead I learned to stuff my feelings down and bury them with food and achievement.
My story is common. We’re taught to make everyone happy but ourselves. We take this behavior into our adult lives and wonder why we’re unhappy and our relationships don’t work.
Have you heard this before? “I can’t believe that he left me! I did everything for him.”
While you definitely want your kids to be good people, you also want them to feel comfortable expressing every aspect of themselves. If you are happy you want to be able to dance and if you’re angry you should also feel comfortable enough to say, “I am pissed off and here’s why.” When you train children to feel only valuable when they are in acceptable or achieving mode, they learn that love is conditional and may spend a lifetime trying to be worthy of receiving love.
Here are the ways that people pleasing can kill your relationships:
1. No authenticity? No intimacy.
Living authentically sounds simple, right? Still, when the economy collapsed we saw that many of us were building our self worth on borrowed goods. If you are not being real your partner won’t feel like he or she can be genuine. When you present your ups and downs your man knows that you are comfortable with them bringing their whole selves to the relationship, too.
Presenting only Susie Sunshine robs you of true intimacy. The most powerful feeling of love is when you know that someone completely sees and gets you and loves you anyway. You cheat yourself of that if you are presenting a mask. True intimacy comes from vulnerability. Vulnerability comes from authenticity, not people pleasing.
2. Are you mothering your man?
He was my ex but now it was time for an exit interview. My ex, however, insisted that it wasn’t me, that he was just a “jackass.” Finally, I shouted in exasperation, “Nobody is perfect! Just give it to me straight.”
“Well… There was that mothering thing,” he explained. Apparently, he felt like he signed up for a significant other and got an additional mother. Oh man! This was hard to hear but I immediately understood it.
Most moms “nag,” worry, make sure we stay clean and come home on time. This is not sexy. We’ll talk more about this in the future but the last time your dude lived with his mom what was the scenario? He probably wanted to rebel against her rules and couldn’t wait to get away from her. Yikes.
Be aware that trying to be a people pleaser at home can result in you behaving like his mom rather than mate.
3. Is he the only one on a pedestal?
At home my father ate on pretty plates and silverware while we ate on paper. On the surface this is a great way to diffuse fights about washing dishes. On the other hand the message is clear: this person is above the rest of the family. I was being taught to put my man on a pedestal, which is great if it’s mutual.
In an ideal relationship you seek to meet each other’s needs. You are eager to please your partner and vice versa. If you’re the only person putting someone on a pedestal in your relationship, the only way he or she can see you is to look down at you.
4. Passive aggressive outbursts.
People pleasing on the surface seems to be about making other people happy. Quite the contrary. People pleasing is selfish and manipulative. Not only do you rob your loved ones of knowing you, but you also may have a martyr complex. This “poor me” mentality leads to passively aggressiveness.
“Poor me, look at all I’ve done for you.”
You then may end up passively criticizing your partner rather than appreciating them. This is poison to any relationship and man-repellant.
5. Is there room for your partner in the relationship?
When is the last time that you let someone pursue you? If courtship as an art form is dead then we need to take equal responsibility for killing it. While we worry about not doing enough in a relationship, most of us are doing too much. People pleasers call, text, check in, plan, organize the date etc. We throw the ball then run to the other side to catch it. Where does your partner fit in?
We all have a spectrum of both masculine and feminine energy. There are feminine energy men and masculine energy women. This has nothing to do with sexual orientation but everything to do with how we approach and interact with the world. Feminine energy traits like being receptive and intuitive are often trained out of us because they’re seen as less valuable.
Sure you want to please your partner but are you leaving room to be pleased? If you’re the one usually responsible for making things tick and holding everyone else together, you may be giving off an, “I don’t need anything from anybody” vibe.
Have you ever tried to give anything to someone who’s not receptive? What’s the point of being in a relationship where you don’t trust your partner enough to need him or her?
6. The co-dependency. counter-dependency paradox.
Being codependent means that you only experience the world as it relates to others. As a people pleaser you may fear not being enough. You will then attract users who will suck you dry of all you have — and it still won’t be enough for them.
Your love life is a mirror, reflecting to you what you believe about yourself. For every passive aggressive co-dependent there is an aggressive counter-dependent waiting in the wings. Having clear boundaries will allow you to feel safe enough to be genuine. The genuine you will attract a healthier crop of suitors than the faux perfect you.
The Last Word?
People pleasing is detrimental to our love lives. The opposite of people pleasing is being authentic, standing in your power, embracing the range of emotions and expressing them. Make an agreement with yourself to feel all of your feelings. No numbing, avoiding, distracting with work, food, games, sex, drugs or alcohol. Deal?
Yes, you should cater to your partner and they should cater to you in return. Little Miss Perfect is a lie and your true spiritual soulmate doesn’t want her anyway. Let down the facade. With a wall up you may not let anyone get close enough to hurt you but you won’t let them get close enough to love you either.
Being a Stepford Wife is an intimacy killer. Anyone worthy of being in your big life wants you to be yourself, not the stereotypical strong, unreal superwoman. Self-acceptance will allow you to be a fully expressed woman.
Put you first. You can’t give from an empty cup and it’s depleting pretending through your tears. People who judge themselves harshly will find any reason to rip other people to shreds.
Your man is both simple and complex. He wants you to feed him, listen to him, make love to him and have his back. PLUS, the real deal is that a real man wants to please YOU! The full you is not too much. The full you is worth loving.
This Week’s Homework
1. People pleasers lose track of how wonderful they are away from the facade. Make a list of 100 amazing things about you.
2. People pleasers often have trouble receiving everything from simple compliments to love. You are worth loving. Make a list of the 100 most amazing things, sentiments, experiences that you have received from romantic partners.
3. People pleasers need reinforcement that they are inherently worthy. Write a love letter to your bodaciously beautiful self.
I was recently speaking with someone about how a conflict-phobic person could deal with drama while avoiding the disease to please. The first thing is to work on removing that issue. We all know that conflict ignites our fight or flight response, but if you’re entangled in a drama with someone you love you can engage in it to make the relationship deeper or opt-out.
Just because someone is angry or upset with you doesn’t mean that you have to engage. Think of it this way – if someone gives you a gift and you don’t accept it, to whom does it belong? It’s still theirs, right? The same with stress and toxic energy. Take care of your spirit and mental energy by choosing where and how to spend your energy in the healthiest ways.